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Restoration of dredged canals in wetlands: a comparison of methods

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A comparison of two methods for restoring dredged canals to wetlands was examined at the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve’s Barataria Preserve Unit near New Orleans, LA. Both northern and southern canals had the remnant dredged spoil material returned to the canal, but the southern canal had additional sediment pumped in from a nearby lake. The water depth in the southern canal shallowed significantly from 1.2 to 0.4 m following backfilling and sediment addition, while the depth of the northern canal (which received no additional sediment) remained unchanged following backfilling. Neither site had complete soil restoration, but the former spoil areas of the northern canal showed greater restoration than the southern canal. The vegetation on the former spoil areas of the northern canal closely resembled that of the reference marsh, while the former spoil areas of the southern canal had species indicative of spoil banks and other elevated areas. After 3 years wetland vegetation was established on approximately 65% of the former spoil areas at both sites and 20–25% of the open water areas. Sediment addition to the southern canal raised costs by a factor of eight times compared to that of the northern canal. The results of this study document the restoration potential of both methods, but also show that backfilling without supplemental sediment additions can restore abandoned canals at a fraction of the cost of other methods.

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We thank the following people who helped in the permit preparation, data collection and monitoring of the project: Kate Carpenter (LSU), James M. Lee (LSU), Erick M. Swenson (LSU), Sandra Dingman, Scott Nesbitt and William J. Hulslander (the Preserve). We would also like to thank the two reviewers for their thoughtful comments on this manuscript. The NPS—Geological Resources Division provided project support and funding.

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Correspondence to Joseph J. Baustian.

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Baustian, J.J., Turner, R.E., Walters, N.F. et al. Restoration of dredged canals in wetlands: a comparison of methods. Wetlands Ecol Manage 17, 445–453 (2009).

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